IBM Making Watson Supercomputing Technology Available for Business Analytics

This November, IBM plans to release its Watson supercomputing technology as a cloud-based platform for business analytics. This analytics technology, which is already available for medical researchers, is designed to answer natural-language queries, as well as parse business data. “Watson Analytics is designed to help all businesspeople—from sales reps on the road to company CEOs—see patterns, pursue ideas, and improve all types of decisions,” IBM senior vice president Bob Picciano told the BBC. There is some market confusion, noted industry analysts, about whether Watson Analytics uses the supercomputer technology at all or whether it is a retooling of the company’s business analytics software. IBM plans to release free and premium versions of Watson Analytics. (BBC)(The New York Times)

Amazon Continues New Hardware Releases

Amazon is preparing to release six new or upgraded devices, including new e-readers and tablets. The basic Kindle e-reader now includes a touch screen. New tablets in the Fire line include a device for children. Amazon has been focusing on hardware—including smartphones and set-top boxes—as of late. Market analysts observe the hardware is specifically designed to drive more traffic to Amazon’s online shopping sites. Some industry observers say Amazon is out of its element in the hardware market against established vendors such as Apple and Samsung. Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and asset-management firm, said Amazon should focus on app distribution and working with other firms’ hardware. However, wrote Will Oremus, senior technology writer with the Slate online magazine, “What makes Amazon so dangerous as a hardware company is that it doesn’t have to make money on its hardware.” He said that the company uses its hardware to get people to shop with Amazon but that now, consumers are finding the hardware itself attractive. (Reuters)(Barron’s)(Slate)

EU Regulators Issue “Right to be Forgotten” Guidelines

EU data-protection regulators have drafted a set of criteria regarding the handling of right to be forgotten appeals, after a two-day meeting in Brussels. The EU’s Article 29 Working Party—consisting of a representative from each member state’s data-protection authority and one from the European Commission—is expected to finalize the guidelines by the end of November 2014. The right to be forgotten gives Europeans the ability to request that search engines eliminate old or nonessential information about them. With some exceptions, search engines must do so. The new guidelines address matters such as record-keeping and the appeal of decisions not to remove material. For example, each EU member state would have to appoint a contact person to make sure that appeals are handled consistently. The guidelines are designed to provide regulators with criteria they can use in decision-making, such as the public role of the person making the request, if the information regards a crime, and how old the information is. The Article 29 Working Party met with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo before drafting the guidelines. The right to be forgotten has proven to be controversial since its implementation in May of this year. Proponents say it’s necessary to protect individuals’ privacy. Opponents say it will leave search results in Europe incomplete and different from those in the rest of the world, and cause too much work for search-engine operators. So far, Google has received 120,000 requests to remove information. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)

Toshiba Cuts Jobs in Restructuring of PC Operations

Toshiba is restructuring its PC business eliminating 900 jobs in the process. The company has not said which consumer computing markets it plans to withdraw from. The company plans to end its business-to-consumer offerings – hardware intended for individual and, typically, home use --, but expand its business-to-business segment, which focuses on computing hardware companies purchase for their enterprise users. Toshiba predicts sales in this segment will grow by 50 percent in fiscal year 2016. It is unclear how or whether Google Chromebooks, which Toshiba makes, are affected in the restructuring. “The PC market is expected to see a continuing trend to modest growth rates, and these transformation measures are necessary to support the business in securing consistent profits,” Toshiba said in a statement. This is the Toshiba’s second restructuring this year. It previously restructured its visual products business. (Reuters)(ZD Net)(MarketWatch)

Ericsson Shutters Modem Unit, Cuts Jobs

Telecommunications technology and service provider Ericsson has announced it will close its modem-manufacturing unit, cutting 1,000 employees. The company said that the falling price of modems, the expenses associated with continued operations, and technology trends, such as the increasing integration of modems with processors, were among the factors leading to the decision. Ericsson will now focus on developing radio infrastructure technologies, small cells – also known as mini-mobile networks --, and machine-to-machine technologies, according to Reuters. The unit had employed about 1,600 people in Sweden, India, Germany, China, and Finland. The company’s new R&D unit in Lund, Sweden, will absorb employees not laid off. (Reuters)(PC World)(Bloomberg)

 

Cray Awarded $13 Million Supercomputing Contract

The PTC Center for High Performance Computing at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, has awarded Cray a $13 million contract to provide it with a next-generation Cray XC supercomputer system and services later this year. This will be one of the first petascale supercomputers in Scandinavia. The KTH institute plans to use the new system for simulations in areas such as fluid dynamics, climate modeling, neuroscience, and plasma physics. The institute will also make the supercomputer available to external researchers though the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing and the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe. This is the latest contract of its type for Cray, which will also provide next-generation Cray XC machines to the Korea Meteorological Association and the US National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. (GeekWire)(MarketWatch)

New Panasonic Hybrid Devices Combines Smartphone, High-End Camera Functions

Panasonic has debuted a product that combines the features of a smartphone and an expensive, stand-alone camera. The Android-based Lumix DMC-CM1 has a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor—typically found on stand-alone cameras—that enables users to take photos in low light and high-definition video. The lens, made with Leica optics, lets users manually set variables such as shutter speed, aperture, and focus. Limited quantities of the CM1 will be available in Germany and France starting in November 2014 for €899. Panasonic did not indicate whether the product will be available in other markets later. (BBC)(PC World)

Smart Locket Keeps Loved Ones Close

The locket—a piece of jewelry, worn on a necklace, that holds treasured photos—seems like something from Victorian England. However, a new locket uses technology to store and display treasured photos and messages. The Purple prototype locket—which Startefact, the Artefact product design firm’s innovation and incubation program created —has a tiny display and touch screen. With a smartphone application, users can choose the photos they want to access and transfers them via Bluetooth. Users can also utilize Purple to send a photo or message to loved ones by text or via services such as Facebook or Instagram. “Purple is designed to be an heirloom piece of jewelry,” explains Artefact on its website < http://www.artefactgroup.com/content/work/purple-a-wearable-locket-for-the-21st-century/>. ”Materials like platinum, silver, gold and even brushed brass, together with pure smooth lines make it stand out in the sea of wearable gadgets.” The company is seeking partners to commercialize the locket. (Geek Wire)(WIRED)(Purple @ Artefact Group)

Microsoft Purchases Minecraft Maker for $2.5 Billion

Microsoft has bought Mojang, the Swedish firm behind the popular video game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. The popular console and mobile game lets players build structures with Lego-style blocks, explore the area, and battle other players within the worlds created. The three founding members of Mojang, the game’s developer, are leaving the company as well. Mojang’s 40 employees will join the Microsoft game studio, but the three founding members will leave the company.  On social networking websites, Minecraft users have expressed differing opinions of whether the Microsoft acquisition will help or hurt their community. One reason Mojang’s owners sold the company to Microsoft is that Minecraft had gotten so big that managing it created too much pressure, according to Markus “Notch” Persson, one of the game’s creators. “Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance,” stated Mojang on its blog. “Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big.” (Geek Wire)(BBC)(Mojang)

Apple iPhone 6 Pre-Orders Set Record

The 4 million pre-orders for Apple’s recently announced iPhone 6 established a first-day record 12 September 2014 for the first 24-hour sales of an iPhone, doubling the previous record set by the iPhone 5. Apple will probably sell 9 to 10 million phones during the first weekend of sales, according to market analysts; however, Apple has yet to release its sales figures. Apple says demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is outpacing supply, meaning some customers must wait until October for the devices. Deliveries of pre-ordered phones will begin 19 September. “We believe significant demand will even spill into the March and June quarters [of 2015],” Barclays analysts wrote. (Reuters)(Bloomberg)(Computerworld)

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